In Our View: No Bricks or Mortar

Online, nonprofit WGU Washington offers great alternative for nontraditional students

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Many students who venture into higher education are not interested in ivy-covered walls, intense football rivalries, fraternities or sororities or strolling through a leaf-strewn quadrangle, arm-in-arm with their sweetie on a crisp fall afternoon.

They’re transfixed on four words pertaining to a university: Get in, get out. As long as the degree is high-quality, and as long as the institution is accredited, these students aren’t bothered by the absence of bricks and mortar.

These “nontraditional” higher education students have found just the place in Washington state, except it’s not really a place. Western Governors University Washington, empowered by the action of this year’s Legislature, is a nonprofit online university that offers more than 50 bachelor’s and master’s degrees in four colleges: Business, Information Technology, Teachers College and Health Professions (including nursing). If you’re interested, visit http://washington.wgu.edu. The more you look into this opportunity, the more benefits you’ll find. For example:

Tuition at WGU Washington runs less than $6,000 per year, far less than the current $10,574 at the University of Washington and $9,374 Washington State University. And at WGU, tuition is a flat fee charged for each six-month term; it doesn’t matter how many courses you take. Many students obtain a degree for less than $15,000.

Unlike most colleges and universities, the average time to complete a degree at WGU is less than three years.

Instead of attending class and learning on a schedule dictated by a university, you’ll learn on your own schedule, 24/7, with materials constantly available online.

None of the money you spend on your online degree goes to any company’s profit. WGU Washington is not a private-sector venture. It’s part of Western Governors University, established in 1997 by 19 governors.

Taxpayers will love what you’re doing, because your degree will come at no expense to them. WGU Washington is self-supporting and receives no state funding.

Your degree will carry clout in years to come. Study areas have been carefully chosen. And when legislators created WGU Washington this year, they were told in the bill that “by 2018, 67 percent of all jobs in Washington will require some postsecondary education … and between 2011 and 2018 the number of Washington jobs requiring postsecondary education will increase by 250,000.”

Each student at WGU is assigned a mentor, who helps not only academically but in addressing life issues outside of class, and can refer students to content experts on each subject.

You will be on the cutting edge of expanding access to higher education, as society learns that bricks and mortar are not always necessary. In a recent Columbian story, WGU Chancellor Jean Floten was quoted: “Access to education is going to become the No. 1 issue in the United States. We’re going to figure out how to get more people through our system and our pipeline to be (globally) competitive.” Floten, who previously was president at Bellevue Community College, said online higher education is “so necessary in our state. It’s accelerated, it’s affordable and it’s accessible.”

There is ample evidence that ivy-covered walls and football rivalries will extend into perpetuity as higher education advances. But consumers need choices, and WGU Washington provides an excellent alternative for nontraditional students.